Thursday, October 11, 2012

How I Learned To Be A Man

If there's one person on this earth I consider a role model (it turns out Iorek Byrnison is fictional WHO KNEW), it's my older brother. My whole life, I have admired him fervently, and I truly believe him to be one of the best people I know. Twenty years ago he taught me to read, the single most precious gift anyone has ever given me; he's also taught, and continues to teach me, invaluable lessons about being a human being, and about being a man specifically.

My older brother has taught me the value of perseverance and inner strength. He has overcome obstacles not through a single climactic battle, but through ongoing daily work. He is innately a very shy person, and I know it takes enormous strength for him to do all the amazing things he has done: living on his own in Costa Rica for a year, rising to a semi-managerial position in his volunteering work, cold-calling strangers in his current job. In the face of underemployment and misery for the past year, he has continued to work so hard and never stopped applying for what he really wants to do.

My older brother has taught me loyalty and dependability. As an oldest sibling, he has often had to take responsibility for me and our little brother over the years, and was precociously wise and fair (most of the time none of us will ever forget the sailing camp where he ordered our little bro out of the boat to go slow down competitors!). He is an absolute brick, and I would trust him with my life.

My older brother has taught me conscience. He is acutely aware of his privilege as a straight white cis man from a financially stable family, and he is committed to justice. His morals are important on a micro level too, and his kindness and generosity shine daily in even the smallest ways.

My older brother has taught me that manliness has nothing to do with traditional gender roles. He has shown me that to be a man you do not actually have to be swift as the coursing river, with all the force of a great typhoon. His brand of manhood encompasses traditionally male pursuits (science, nerdiness) and traditionally female pursuits (nail polish, squeeing at cute animals), without apologizing for, denigrating, or indeed gendering either. He is not beholden to the social forces that would compel him to be interested in things he hates (like sports and motorcars), and he seems rooted and confident in who he is. My older brother is the man I aspire to be.

My older brother has great taste. We share the books, music, movies, and TV shows that we love, and we have a monumental network of in-jokes based on our shared history. Our sense of humor is so similar that we often make the same joke at the same time, and we always crack each other up. When we're together we have a level of connection like no one else we know.

When I look at my older brother, I see myself, but better.

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